Chichibu festival – one of the biggest festivals in Japan that happens every year in December 3rd. Lucky me – I managed to attend this festival this year with my mate N.
I was lucky to be able to get away from work early and take the train to Chichibu. Chichibu is approximately 2 hours away from the town I live in. It was lots of fun. Filled with heaps of culture and an enormous amount of people. The official parade started at about 6:30pm. I got to see two major floating shrines go around the street around. These floating shrines are actually handled by festival volunteers. People in traditional customs are using rope to pull the shrine along the road. A particular special moment was when I got to see the floating shrine make a turn at a corner where the Chichibu station is. Using heaps of man power and large logs of wood, they had the shrine pivot on the spot while also changing the directions do the wheels. It sounds ordinary but given the size of these shrines, it was absolutely amazing to watch!
The Floating shrines were absolutely beautiful. All made out of wood with authentic traditional curving and decorations on the shrines along with alignment of lamps. Some people were riding the shrine while dancing or singing to the crowd. Along the road that these shrines were driving on, lots of people were standing on the road side watching. Fireworks were also being lite in the background and it was beautiful. I am generally not a huge fan of fireworks (and that maybe before we have very bad fireworks back home in Australia). The fireworks I saw at this festival were way better than what I have seen back home. Japan sure knows how to impress a crowd.
The way home was no doubt a long ride. I had to stand the entire way back and change trains midway. Lucky for me, I managed to catch the last train back home. I had no idea it was the last train. For people who wish to travel and see this festival, it is definitely worth seeing. You can absolutely see the show and get the full experience; and get the train back if you are within the 2 hour radar. For folks who are incredibly keen, leaving at around 8:30pm is actually quite early, because there is still heaps happening after that. I saw some very nice photos by my colleagues on Facebook. So if you want, try to find out whether you have any friends living in Chichibu or get a hotel to stay overnight. It is definitely highly recommended.